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“I know myself better than anyone, and I’m sure I would know what makes me feel safe and seen”

I am a member of the Young Researchers Advisory Panel, we are a group of young people aged 18-24 who are connected by our commitment to improving responses to sexual abuse and related forms of harm. We all bring different perspectives and experiences which we draw on through our work at the Safer Young Lives Research Centre. Our focus is to ensure young people’s views are heard and we do this by advising members of the wider research team on how to develop, design and undertake their research in ways that are child/youth centred, ethical and empowering.

We have also been involved in numerous consultations with a wide range of different people working on their research including the Social Care Review, the Delphi Study and the Our Voices project.  We have piloted research resources and, most recently, we also co-produced a resource with the Contextual Safeguarding team.

We were initially introduced to the Contextual Safeguarding approach as part of the Scale Up project. We discussed key messages in the newly developed scenarios to gain an understanding of what Contextual Safeguarding can look like for a young person and checked that the language used would make sense for other young people. We were then asked to be a part of the Contextual Safeguarding work by using our new knowledge to produce content for a resource that would inform young people of the approach. We worked together over a few months to write the content that includes key messages, scenarios, tips, expectations and some questions about safety to familiarise the young people and get them thinking about their own safety in different contexts. We then met with an artist, Meera Shakti Osborne, who brought it all to life with her illustrations.

As this work was coming to an end, we were all thrilled to be invited to participate in the Contextual Safeguarding conference in Birmingham. It was our first time attending something of the sort and we didn’t know what to expect. We spent time preparing and practising what we were going to say in our workshop, and we did practice runs all together so that we were aware how long it took us and to get feedback on our presenting skills.  We did group exercises, breathing techniques and some of us meditated which seemed to lower our nerves slightly. We also talked about the fact that we are doing this for everyone – we are doing it because we care about change and want to be an active part in that. We had to look at the bigger picture and this brought all of us comfort. We were happy that people would get to know about us and the work we do, which was a huge confidence boost!

During our workshop, we included examples of answers to questions included in our resource. Our examples included:

I would feel safer if...

I was taken seriously and my needs were treated with respect. It can be so degrading to    have my simple accessibility needs dismissed and portrayed by others as if I'm a burden                and that I’m asking for a lot.”

Do you think you get a say in decisions about your safety, and what you think is best?

I should! But in my experience, I have definitely not been informed or asked about decisions regarding my safety. I know myself better than anyone, and I’m sure I would know what makes me feel safe and seen”

These quotes got a large reaction that we were glad to see, it felt empowering to share them.

After we had presented, we had allocated time for reflections, and some YRAP members sat with different groups and joined in their discussions. It was very comforting to be able to talk to professionals with the right mindset who genuinely wanted to hear what we had to say and have passion for helping young people in a new way. We discussed themes of communication, authority and listening.  It was refreshing to speak with professionals directly and remind them of the power they hold in their work and how important they are in supporting young people.

This was an enormous step for us since this was some of the YRAP members' first time meeting each other, and none of us had spoken in front of a room full of people before.  Everyone pulled through and managed to present their section and we were all immensely proud of each other. Reflecting as a group, we felt that it is important that professionals heard young people’s perspectives and that our workshop had created space to do that. We acknowledged that there were different views and although they were upsetting to some, we were glad to have had them shared as it led to a wider discussion. We captured people’s learning and their commitments to better including young people in Contextual Safeguarding processes in the future.

 

Our overall reflections from our time at the Contextual Safeguarding conference are positive, members have said that they are now excited for the future and would definitely choose to present again.  Not only did this achievement mean a lot to us individually, it is something we have shared as a group and has made us closer and more comfortable around each other as a result. We are grateful to have had the opportunity!    

Author : Meg Elizabeth

Publication : 14 July 2022